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THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND

The Gazette

Jun 26 2017

Wait for it … Wait for it … and suddenly, bam, it’s here! Summer has finally arrived, and yet in a blink of an eye it will be a mere vision in the rear view mirror of our mind. No time to delay — let the planning begin.

From weekend getaways to that long-awaited annual summer trip, it’s time to hit the road and explore. Musician and songwriter Woody Guthrie captured the essence perfectly in the American classic “This Land is Your Land.” I suggest we take on Woody’s famed 1940s opening lyrics as our mantra for summer 2017:

“This land is your land This land is my land

From California to the New York island,

From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters

This land was made for you and me.”

I have been on a personal quest to increase my exploration of our fabulous “50” and thought I’d share with you two destinations I recently visited that just might be fitting and worth checking out this summer.

I was invited as a guest to experience the history and beauty of Fredericksburg, Texas, and the wonders, icons and magic of the one and only “Music City” — Nashville.

Here are my thoughts and recommendations if you go:

Fredericksburg, Texas

Fredericksburg is located in the Texas hill country, smack dab in the middle of the state. German settlers founded Fredericksburg, and the heritage is still prevalent throughout the city.

If you’re flying into San Antonio on your way to Fredericksburg, take a spin over to Luckenbach, Texas, for your first initiation into the culture shift where North meets South.

You may be familiar with this pea size town from the Waylon Jennings song “Luckenbach Texas (Back To The Basics of Love).” The tourist destination consists of a closed post office, a working saloon, a dance hall and a general store that has been converted into a gift shop. The town now hosts regular music events and occasional “pickup” sessions where musicians gather to play for the crowds. You should now officially be ready for Texas.

With more than 400 B&Bs, guest houses, inns and guest ranches, you could say Fredericksburg is the unofficial capital of eclectic lodging in Texas. Be sure to check out the Fredericksburg Herb Farm for a quick visit, or perhaps stay in one of the 14 Sunday House Cottages. Sunday house cottages are unique to the area. German settlers would build these small “city houses” to use on weekends when they came to town to buy provisions for the week and to attend church services.

Our nation’s history unfolds before your eyes at two major attractions in Fredericksburg. Start with the National Museum of the Pacific War. The museum is the only institution in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to telling the story of the Pacific War.

Continue your day of U.S. history with a visit to the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. Visit “The Texas White House” and see where the 36th U.S. President conducted much of his business. The house was first opened for public tours on August 27, 2008, the 100th birthday of LBJ. During his administration, Lyndon Johnson signed more education bills into law than any other president.

Now it just may be time to explore the Texas hill country and travel along Wine Road 290 to visit the award-winning wineries. The area was rated in 2014 by Wine Enthusiasts one of its “Ten Best Wine Travel Destinations.”

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville is often referred to as Music City. It’s growing, changing and experiencing rapid expansion, but all in what appears to be a very good way.

This is a city filled with something for everyone. The city provides an amazing cultural platform, starting with the beautiful Schermerhorn Symphony Center. If hockey is your game of choice, the city and their fans are as dedicated to the Nashville Predators as any fan base in the NHL.

And of course Nashville didn’t get the name “Music City” by chance. It has an incomparable music scene from the honky tonks, to the acclaimed songwriter’s paradise the Blue Bird Café, to the one-and-only Grand Ole Opry. It is truly a vibrant city and one you just may want to move up on your list as “must-see Tennessee.”

This is a large city with many interesting landmarks and distinct stylish and historic neighborhoods. I’d suggest getting your bearings a bit and hopping aboard the Grey Line Trolley for a guided tour of the area.

Tip your hat to Nashville’s country roots with a tour of the 350,000-square-foot Country Music Hall of Fame and Museumdowntown. Often referred to as the Smithsonian of Country Music, it currently is giving a nod to Minnesota native Bob Dylan in an exhibit called “Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City.”

The Musicians Hall of Fame was an unexpected and welcome surprise, because I wasn’t sure it would differ much from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Boy was I wrong on this one. This is a terrific museum with knowledgeable tour guides giving you a backstage perspective to the makings of some of the greatest recordings of all time. This museum features the known and not-so-known talented musicians who actually played on many recordings familiar to us all.

The Frist Center for Performing Arts is celebrating 15 years. At 24,000 square feet Nashville’s art-deco former U.S. Post Office has established itself as a mainstay of Nashville’s arts community.

Tour the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, a neoclassic revivalist concert hall that opened in 2006. The award-winning symphony is celebrating its 70th season. The concert hall is a stunning building used for multiple events.

If you’re planning a visit Nashville make your reservations now for one of the hottest tickets in town — the BluebirdCafé (bluebirdcafe.com). At the Bluebird Café you can kick back and hear a legendary performance by songwriters performing original material in an intimate setting. Many of these songwriters have written songs we’ve all heard performed by some of the music industry’s biggest stars.

No trip to Nashville is complete without a trip to the iconic Grand Ole Opry. The Opry is a short drive outside the downtown Nashville corridor, but worth every minute of the excursion. While you’re there, be sure to stop in and experience the recently opened Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. From Minnie Pearl to Justin Timberlake, the wax look-a-likes may be as close as you will get to leaving “Music City” with a selfie with one of the icons of the music industry.

I hope I have inspired you to “Hit the road, Jack”!

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